Meeting indicates a marked shift in Israeli foreign policy from the previous government

Nicole Jansezian | July 8, 2021

According to Israeli media, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett secretly met with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman this week, a further sign that the two countries are looking to improve relations and reverse years of tension. The meeting was defined by a senior security official as “very good” who also said it opens a “new page” between the countries, according to Channel 12. Barak Ravid of the Walla news website first reported the news. Bennett apparently left for Jordan on Tuesday and met with King Abdullah at his palace in Amman.

Earlier this week Israel approved a deal to transfer water to Jordan for the next five years. Today, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with his Jordanian counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Spadi, where they also agreed on other trade and water projects in addition to increasing Jordan’s export potential to the West Bank. “The Kingdom of Jordan is an important neighbor and partner,” Lapid said in a statement. “We will broaden economic cooperation for the good of the two countries.”

The meeting marks a clear shift in Israeli foreign policy with the Bennett-Lapid government. Netanyahu and Abdullah had a rocky relationship in recent years exacerbated by the previous Israeli prime minister’s strong connection with former U.S. President Donald Trump who heavily favored Israel over the Palestinians. Abdullah feared that Trump’s peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would undermine Jordan’s oversight of Jerusalem holy sites.

Benny Gantz, who was defense minister under Netanyahu and has remained in the position in the new government, also secretly met the king in Jordan earlier this year. He blamed Netanyahu’s chilly relationship with Amman for “hampering” progress between the two countries. Critics of Netanyahu blamed him for neglecting and even attempting to sabotage Jerusalem’s bilateral ties with its eastern neighbor while pursuing peace agreement with Gulf states instead.

Now, with Abdullah set to be the first leader of an Arab nation to be invited to Washington to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden, it appears that Israel is banking on better ties with Jordan to boost its own standing with the new Democrat administration in America. Bennett has stressed that he intends to restore bipartisan support for Israel by improving ties with the Democrats and forging close relations with the Biden administration. Jordan and Israel have had a formal peace agreement since 1994, but with a large Palestinian population and Abdullah’s support for a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, relations have generally been tense.

While news of the meeting is good for Israel, especially in its pursuit of better relations with the United States, a senior security source told Channel 12 that it could embarrass Abdullah and damage relations between the two countries.